A video was posted recently of community policing in action. And it was absolutely hilarious. I laughed until I cried and then shared it with my family and my online buddies. They too laughed hard and said so.
But when it was all over but the shouting I looked back at the video and thought a little more about what the video really showed. Let me illustrate the video.
A white police officer on traffic watch (of a dirt road in the country, but whatever) had his dash camera on and witnessed a white male roll by on his riding lawnmower. The officer pulls from his spot, hits the lamps and sounds his siren ordering the man to stop. He complies. The man identified by the officer first as “man” then soon “Steve” was admonished for drinking and driving his mower. Steve replied he was on his way to the oyster shack. The officer said to cut off the engine, extinguish his cigarette, and empty his liquor bottle. Both of which Steve did before stumbling back onto the mower. The policemen repeatedly demanded Steve shut the engine back off. He ignored him and continued rolling. The policemen said, “You fittin’ ta git lit up, Steve” and then he tasered Steve who cried loudly shouting he thinks he crapped his pants. At which point Steve was taken into custody.
As I said, it was hilarious and I still laugh and think it’s funny as Hell. Honestly if it was a black man on the mower I’d laugh too. Yes, I am black. It’s the incident that’s funny to me and how poor Steve acted under the influence. Yes, the taser was justified because he himself could’ve been injured by reaching over a potentially spinning mower blade to forcibly shut off the engine so a non-lethal submission was justified. But there’s a lesson here.
I saw community policing in action and I liked it. I loved it. I want some of it. This policemen clearly knew personally Steve. He called him man. He addressed Steve by name and without needing to view his identification. He was confident enough in his relationship with the community he SERVES AND PROTECTS to use simple methods of submission rather than lethal force at first sight. The officer was not afraid of the community. He was part of the community. This, my friends, is what community policing is and should be.
Know your community. Serve your community. Don’t abuse authority in your community. Protect your community even from itself. This is the goal, or should be, of every law enforcement officer in America today.
So when I see community policing dismantled because the police have become eunuchs and afraid of their community I am devastated. I see police states in urban cities. I see Michael Browns and Tamir Rice and Edward Garners (shot for running away) so many others over and over and over again. These policemen are trained to be afraid. Not authorities. Taught to escalate before the suspect can. Rather than defuse the situation before the suspect goes ballistic. These policemen are asked to patrol not on foot or in squad cars, but in tanks and military style machinery. These officers are asked to enforce laws that are designed to create a fear of the law rather than respect for the law.
I’ve said before that decisions and choices made from a mentality of fear are guaranteed to net strange results.
I haven’t changed my mind. And I miss community policing.